Raymond is a tenth grader at a small, rural high school. Today Raymond is brimming with excitement for the afternoon to come. This year his school has started a debate club, and today is the first meeting. Raymond has always enjoyed discussing ideas with others, and he’s become particularly skilled at winning arguments.
While the ideas that Raymond shares in discussions (and that he has in his head) can be very sophisticated, when he gets them down on paper, they seem to become simplistic and not as creative. The quality of Raymond’s written output just doesn’t reflect his true abilities.
In addition, Raymond is becoming somewhat famous for his illegible handwriting. In Geometry class, for example, Raymond has a strong understanding of the concepts, and always does well on classroom tests. Sometimes his homework is returned to him to do over, however, because his teacher can’t read his work. Some of Raymond’s teachers joke lightly with him about his handwriting, but they are actually feeling quite frustrated having to ‘decipher’ his essays and homework. Moreover, Raymond is frustrated with himself and feels embarrassed by the joking about his handwriting, although he would never let on what he felt.
Taking notes during classroom instruction is taxing for Raymond. He never feels like he can keep up with everything he needs to get down. Because he has to think about writing as he’s doing it, he finds it impossible to take fluent notes and get what the teacher is saying at the same time. When Raymond tries to study from his notes later on, even he has a hard time reading them.
- Sophisticated ideas
- Strong debate skills
- Good understanding of Geometry concepts
- In class tests
- Discussing ideas with others
- Being on the debate team
Areas in Need of Improvement:
- Showing his abilities through his written work
- Illegible handwriting
- Has to redo assignments due to handwriting
- Teachers are becoming frustrated
- Frustrated with himself and embarrassed
- Taking notes during instruction
- Being able to study from notes
Possible Management Plan:
It is important for Raymond to experience some degree of satisfaction related to creating written output. By providing a few accommodations and interventions tailored to Raymond’s specific needs, we can increase the likelihood that he will be more successful with tasks that involve writing and will likely enjoy school more.
As part of this management plan, a line of communication needs to be opened up between Raymond and his teachers. Gaining a better understanding of Raymond’s graphomotor difficulties will be beneficial for both Raymond and his teachers. His teachers need to know that Raymond is sensitive about his writing, and their jokes may not be appropriate, and Raymond needs to be encouraged to be honest with his teachers, and not feel embarrassed about his writing difficulties.
Leveraging Strengths and Affinities:
- Raymond’s affinity for discussions and debate can be used as leverage for his success in school.
- Reinforce Raymond’s interest in oral discussion and debate. For example, design opportunities for him to read about the art of debate further, and to practice his debating skills through class projects.
- Team Raymond with a classmate who has strong writing skills for collaborative projects. For example, in preparing for a debate, Raymond can dictate ideas, while his teammate records and organizes the ideas into written notes for use during the match.
Possible Accommodations and Interventions:
- Raymond’s ideas can be creative and insightful, yet his written output does not reflect these strengths. Central to uncovering a pathway to more success for Raymond is finding accommodations and strategies that will make written output more efficient and more reflective of his true abilities.
- Provide completed, or partially completed, lecture outlines, lecture handouts, etc. when possible so that Raymond is able to keep up with instruction during class. If lessons are kept on computer documents, Raymond can be responsible for downloading the information.
- Allow Raymond to use a hand-held or tabletop tape recorder during class to record lessons for which he has to take notes. Give him time to compare his notes to the tape after the lesson.
- Keep graph paper available for Raymond for mathematics work and for creating outlines and diagrams during note-taking. This will help keep numbers aligned and will promote legibility of his notes.
- Consider the benefits of having Raymond use a computer for all his writing tasks. With the keyboard and icons provided, and spell check function, the computer stresses recognition memory rather than retrieval, which may be less of a drain on memory. With a reduced memory and motor burden, Raymond may be able to allocate more effort to thought, elaboration, and creative expression. Revision is a far easier task with a computer also. With cut and paste options, Raymond’s ability to manipulate the organization of his writing will improve.
- Utilize selected software applications specifically designed for maximizing writing quality (e.g., Inspiration, Co-writer, and Writer Aloud). Raymond will be thrilled at the professional look of the materials he is able to produce with the support of a software application.
- Keep in mind that for many students learning to use the computer for composition is an arduous task, and initially may be as challenging as writing by hand. Guide Raymond through computer mastery gradually and without undue pressure.
- Promote Raymond’s metacognitive awareness about his writing. Help him understand what the writing process entails, such as what kinds of memory, language ability, motor skills, and organization he has to mobilize and integrate during the writing process. Encourage Raymond to document his progress in his writing tasks. He may accumulate a dated portfolio of his work as he improves his writing. Support Raymond in displaying his work proudly at school and at home if he wants to.
- Encourage Raymond to use specific strategies during writing. Encourage him to complete his writing assignments in stages rather than trying to spell, punctuate, and develop ideas all at once. Example strategies might include: COPS (Capitalization- Overall appearance or Organization- Punctuation- Spelling); WRITER (Write on every other line- Read paper for meaning- Interrogate using COPS- Take to someone else to look over- Execute a final copy- Reread a final time); and POWER (Plan: audience, purpose, background- Organize: categorize and order ideas- Write- Extend- Revise and Rewrite).